Iraq Oil Report's Daily Brief compiles the most important news and analysis about Iraq from around the web.

Iraq’s Maliki poses as Shi’ite champion in race for top job

Maher Chmaytelli writes for Reuters:

Former Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki fulfilled his life-long goal of wresting power from the country’s minority Sunnis after the fall of Saddam Hussein but his drive to entrench Shi’ite dominance proved his downfall.

Blamed for the widespread corruption and divisive policies that contributed to the collapse of the Iraqi military and the rise of Islamic State, Maliki lost the premiership to fellow Dawa Party member Haider al-Abadi after a 2014 election.

Now, after four years sidelined as one of three largely ceremonial vice-presidents, Maliki is taking on Abadi in a May 12 election in a bid to win a third term as prime minister, and is posing again as Iraq’s Shi’ite champion.

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Iraq communists march on May Day, confident ahead of polls

AFP reports:

Carrying red flags and posters of Karl Marx, hundreds of Iraqi communists marched Tuesday in Baghdad for May Day, convinced their joint list with Shiite leader Muqtada Sadr can win this month’s election.

In a joyful procession, demonstrators also waved the blue flags of their electoral list and chanted slogans like “Listen to the will of the people: reform and the end of corruption” and “The workers are the spearhead of the country”.

For the first time in Iraq’s history Shiite clerics have allied with the hammer and sickle of secular communists in a joint list for the May 12 parliamentary polls.

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Hobby Lobby’s Smuggled Artifacts Will Be Returned To Iraq

Sasha Ingber reports for NPR:

Nearly 4,000 ill-gotten artifacts will be returned to Iraq on Wednesday, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says. The ancient objects were bought by Hobby Lobby, a national chain of arts and crafts stores, then smuggled into the United States in violation of federal law.

The Oklahoma-based chain of retail stores bought more than 5,500 objects from dealers in the United Arab Emirates and Israel in 2010, said the Department of Justice in a July 2017 document. The purchase was made months after the company was advised by an expert to use caution.

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Iraq’s Shiite-Sunni Divide Eases

Isabel Coles and Ali Nabhan write for The Wall Street Journal:

The highway to this western Iraqi city, long synonymous with Sunni resistance against Iraq’s Shiite-led government, now showcases signs the sectarian tensions that have ravaged the country for 15 years are ebbing.

The road to Fallujah is lined with posters promoting Sunni candidates as part of Shiite-dominated coalitions for this month’s national election. Many of the same politicians who stirred up animosity now speak of unity, as they court voters fed up with years of sectarian politics that culminated in Islamic State’s takeover of a third of the country.

“We are really exhausted and don’t care who rules us, as long as we can lead a normal life,” said 23-year-old Fallujah shop owner Muhammad Saoud.

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Iraq to use new electronic system in May elections

Sinan Salaheddin reports for AP:

Iraq plans to use a new electronic system in next month’s national elections that will limit fraud and allow for the announcement of results within hours of polls closing, the election commission said Monday.

The Independent High Electoral Commission said that 60,000 devices will be distributed nationwide to send voting data via satellite. Employees have tested the system and found it to be as reliable as hand-counting, the commission said.

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Divided Kurds face losses in Iraq’s election

Abdel Hamid Zebari and Shwan Mohammad write for AFP:

As if the loss of oil-rich territory last year wasn't painful enough, Iraq's divided Kurds are bracing for a blow on the political front in the country's May 12 elections.

Analysts estimate the Kurds' loss of seats in Iraq's parliament could reach double figures as their shrunken geographic footprint is compounded by a bitter feud between the two main political parties in semi-autonomous Kurdistan.

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U.S. shuts down ground forces office in Iraq, as combat against Islamic State ends

Tamer El-Ghobashy writes for The Washington Post:

The headquarters coordinating the activities of American ground forces in Iraq closed down on Monday, marking the end of major combat operations against the Islamic State, said U.S. officials.

About 5,000 American ground forces were stationed in Iraq at the height of the war against the Islamic State that culminated with the reclaiming of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city and the self-declared capital of the militants in the country.

The ground troops were there to advise, equip and assist Iraq’s military during the grueling three year fight to claw back the one-third of Iraqi territory that the Islamic State had claimed. They were not involved in active combat but were often seen near field command centers around Mosul, operating surveillance drones or coordinating battlefield logistics with Iraqi commanders.

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15 Years After U.S. Invasion, Some Iraqis Are Nostalgic For Saddam Hussein Era

Jane Arraf writes for NPR:

Before the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Gen. Najm al-Jabouri would stand at the border crossing with Turkey and look longingly across the gate.

"As an officer, I had a dream to travel outside of Iraq," he says, sitting in a garden in Saddam Hussein's former palace complex in Mosul. "Sometimes I would go to Ibrahim Khalil gate just to see outside Iraq — to see whether the ground outside Iraq was different from inside Iraq."

For almost every Iraqi, the past 15 years have been full of unimaginable twists and turns. Jabouri is still an Iraqi general, but now he oversees security in Mosul and controls Saddam's former compound. His first trip outside his country wasn't to neighboring Turkey but to the United States.

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Iraq’s Daesh trials bring swift verdicts, almost all guilty

AP reports:

The entire trial lasted just over half an hour. A grey-haired man was led into the defendant’s booth. He fidgeted as the judge read the charges against him: Swearing allegiance to the Daesh group and working for the militants as an employee at a water station.

“Not guilty,” the defendant, Abdullah Al-Jabouri, told the judge in a session of one of Iraq’s counterterrorism courts this week. He said he had worked for Nineveh province’s water department for more than 20 years and stayed at his post when Daesh took over in 2014, but he denied ever swearing allegiance to the group.

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Poverty and lack of services in Iraq force refugees back to the camps

Judit Neurink writes for Deutsche Welle:

"My children collect scrap iron to sell," Abbas Mohammed said, picking up the iron pipe that one of his sons was playing with. The war against the "Islamic State" (IS) group left a lot of scrap lying around in Mosul, and trucks full of it leave the city daily.

Mohammed lives with his wife and six children in a poor part of west Mosul, the part of the city which suffered the most during the battle to evict IS. "Everyone here is tired and poor," he said. "We have no money."

Much of west Mosul lies in ruins, but Mohammed's Al-Amal neighborhood was only partly damaged. When he returned after fleeing the battle, he found the roof of his simple home destroyed. But he has no money for repairs. Like his neighbors, his poverty has grown since the IS occupation and the subsequent war, and nine months after the city was declared liberated their homes remain barely habitable.

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